Monday, 6 April 2009
Liberals need shed no tears for a great champion.
Calls for a presidential pardon for the old time heavyweight champion Jack Johnson remind me a bit of when NALGO made the imprisoned Nelson Mandela an honorary member. It was probably churlish of me but I thought at the time that for someone banged up on Robben Island NALGO membership was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. I feel pretty much the same about a pardon for the long dead Johnson.
To say that Jack Johnson was a man before his time is an understatement. A truly gifted fighter, first black world heavyweight champion and one of the finest defensive boxers of all time, Johnson took the fight game to a whole new level, and won the undying hatred of white America for his trouble. When Johnson beat Tommy Burns for the title in 1908 he sent shock waves through the white world. Two years later former champ and so called "white hope" Jim Jefferies was called from retirement to defend the honour of the white race. The fight was held in Reno, Nevada and was a deeply racist affair. Among the many famous people who made the trip to Reno and helped hype the racism was that darling of the left, the writer and self proclaimed socialist Jack London. After the crushing defeat of Jefferies an orgy of riots and lynchings descended on America's black community.
It wasn't just that Johnson was beating all the white fighters put in front of him; it was the sheer arrogance of the man. In an era when for a black male to make eye contact with a white woman could result in a lynching, Jack Johnson openly married and had affairs with a number of white girls. At a time when a shuffling subservience was the expected form of behavior for blacks in white society, Johnson was an unashamed flash, brash, hard drinking, hard gambling lover of fast cars and fast women.
Eventually he was tried and found guilty of "transporting a white woman across a State border for immoral purposes". Escaping abroad Jack had many more adventures, lost the title to Jess Willard and returned to The States to serve a year in prison.
Master boxer? Certainly. Flawed human being? Most probably. But today's liberals need shed no tears for Jack Johnson. He refused to be a victim of racism and lived his life to the full.